BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
The management of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has cleared the air on alleged offshore secret accounts and withdrawals made by an online social media, noting that the Authority operates only approved two foreign accounts while transactions are transparently done with impregnable safeguards emplaced to counteract unauthorized transactions.
While providing a well documented up-to-date official evidence for the opening of its two foreign accounts, the NPA Managing Director, Mr. Mohammed Bello-Koko said the explanation became necessary to disabuse the minds of well meaning Nigerians against the ingenious fabrications of the author of the fake story.
A statement by the Authority’s General Manager, Corporate and Strategic Communications, Ibrahim Nasiru, urged Nigerians to dismiss the fake report in its entirety, as the NPA operates approved USD-denominated domiciliary accounts only, which are open and not secretive.
The statement reads: “The attention of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) has been drawn to a media report by PointBlank Online Newspaper of Monday July 25, 2022, suggesting that the Authority operates two secret accounts outside Nigeria, which have been allegedly looted.
“Contrary to their claims in the apparently sponsored report, which are both false and malicious, the NPA operates two USD-denominated domiciliary accounts that were approved by the Federal Government and transparently run, in accordance with agreed official safeguards emplaced by the Office of the Accountant General through the CBN and the TSA policy of the Federal Government of Nigeria against possible infractions and looting.
“While the NPA management’s initial disposition was to dismiss the news report with a wave of the hand, the compelling need to set the records straight and disabuse the minds of well-meaning and unsuspecting members of the various publics on the subject matter assumed prime consideration.”
The Authority proceeded to present the factual and historical evidences for the said accounts and how they are operated strictly in accordance with laid down protocols and under the essential safeguards in which the accounts were incorporated.
“Therefore, the Management hereby states as follows:”
- That a request for approval to open two accounts for collection of service boats pilotage revenue was made to the Accountant General of the Federation in a letter dated August 26, 2016.
- That the OAGF approved the opening of the accounts which were to be opened in Zenith Bank and Fidelity Bank with their correspondent foreign banks as Citibank N.A in London and New York respectively for the purposes of collecting service boats pilotage revenue accruing to the NPA.
- That as of the time the request for approval was made, the class of revenue was being collected by Integrated Logistics Services Limited (INTELS) on behalf of the NPA from inception of the managing agent relationship which dates back to 1996.
- That there was a management agency relationship between INTELS and the NPA which gave INTELS the responsibility to monitor service boats operations and collect revenue from such operations on behalf of the NPA at an agreed commission.
- That both NPA & INTELS rely on the provision in the executed agreement to have access to view the inflow into the accounts for ease of reconciliation and to enable it determine online real- time amounts paid by clients and the value of invoice to send to the NPA for payment of their management services;
- That on a monthly basis, there were hundreds of payments for service boats operations that make payments directly into INTELS bank account.
- That on periodic basis, INTELS remitted a portion of the revenue collected to the NPA and retained significant portion in its vault, comprising commission on collection of revenue and cost of Onne phase 4B expansion project through amortization.
- That the Management of the NPA considered this practice as being completely at variance with the requirements of Treasury Single Account (TSA) policy of Government, which made it mandatory that all revenues accruing to all Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) must be remitted into one consolidated TSA account in the Central bank of Nigeria.
- That Management conducted a thorough review of the executed management agency agreement it entered into with INTELS and felt the urgent need to open revenue accounts dedicated to the collection of revenue from service boats operations based on certain parameters.
- That the parameters included, among others: to ensure that Government revenues no longer reside in the vaults of private operators or companies; to ensure seamless reconciliation of revenue collection from service boats operations as there were hundreds entries per month; to enthrone accountability and transparency in the management of revenue generation and collection from service boats operations; to enhance prompt reconciliation of service boats revenue generation and collection, which will facilitate prompt payment of agency commission by the Authority to INTELS in a transparent manner; and the prompt remittance of the net revenue after deduction of agency commission into the Authority’s TSA sub-account in the CBN.
The statement continues:
“The Management also wishes to state that all the supposed assertions and innuendos in the news report as regards secrecy and diversion of funds in the accounts are nothing but spurious and laughable concoctions and disingenuous misinformation about happenings in the NPA in the fertile imaginations of the author of the unconscionable report.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the Management states categorically that there was no how the funds in the accounts could have been secretly diverted or privatized as significant safeguards had been put in place by the Federal Government.”
To clear all doubts, the Bello-Koko led NPA also laid bare the historical and official background of the accounts, taking the wind off the sail of those believed to be behind the sponsorship of the smear campaign.
“In a February 13, 2017 letter of approval from the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation for the opening of the accounts for collection of service boats pilotage revenue, operational modalities were approved, to wit:
- That the NPA will operate collection accounts only with two commercial banks to be designated as “Transit Account”;
- That balances in these Accounts will be swept daily into the designate Treasury Single Account (TSA) Revenue Sub-Accounts with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) or as mutually agreed by all parties;
- That on no account should withdrawals be made from these Revenue Accounts;
- That participatory Banks and INTELS will write formally to the NPA to demand their collection charges on monthly basis or as may have been agreed with them;
- That the NPA, upon due confirmation, reconciliation and necessary due diligence, will forward the request to the Office of the Account General of the Federation for payment to parties; and,
- That in case of further clarifications on this matter, the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation should be contacted, accordingly.
Leaving nothing to further speculation, the NPA also listed additional safeguards built into the said accounts in relation to internet banking.
“Besides, there were additional checks mechanisms put in place with the Banks to provide internet banking for the service boat revenue collection to enable “view-only” and printing capabilities of the statements of accounts by over twenty top management staff members of the NPA.
“With the explanations supra, the Management hereby wishes to state that the specious report about two persons looting the NPA’s so-called secret accounts could not have been possible.
“We therefore wish to state that the current NPA management under the leadership of the Managing Director, Mr Mohammed Bello-Koko, is only aware of the approved USD-denominated domiciliary accounts as stated above and not aware of secret foreign accounts as indicated in the malicious online newspaper report.
“The NPA Management runs an open administration and gives premium to due process in the execution of its core mandates. We therefore wish to urge Nigerians to take note of the Management’s commitment to transparency in its financial transactions.”